L I t T e R

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Janet Sutherland

If you kiss a mermaid

when you find one high and dry,
flies will be sipping at her lips

sand in her gritted eyes
her iridescent scales will bleach

grey down her leaden flank
the silvered fin she spread to swim

will be faded, ragged, rank
beached too far up

among the whitening bones of cuttlefish
the round green eyes of pebbles worn from glass

the odd detritus of a foreign land
surrounding her, an out flung arm

will seem to beckon - don’t be taken in
storm tossed, she’s just leviathan

in miniature; abandoned, lost
and dying slowly like the rest of us

Waiting Room

a grey Victorian waiting room
between platforms

scuffed lino, the wainscot paint
chipped and scored

with angular graffiti
cursive script

on the back of an old envelope
propped slantwise against skirting board

three words
in pencil

about lost time

Sappho - Fragment 31

Opposite you he sits,
this man, equal with the gods,
listening to you –
your sweet speech

and your laughter. My heart
lurches when I look
at you, even briefly.
I cannot speak.

My tongue is stopped.
A sly flame runs
under my skin. I can
see nothing. My ears hum.

Sweat drenches me.
I tremble, bleached like
grass. I have come
closer, now, to death.


I was quietly writing your name
In my bowl of porridge
Then pressing the curve of the spoon
Against it, like a lover
Or an eraser

Without Reference

a white cliff
hanging without reference
to line

sea submerged by
light as if
no mark
measured the weight
of water

on the lee of the hill
bushes coming to white bloom

a rose creeps among dunes

how a hurled stone
turns in the air

suckering, like a snake

flint points and re-points

in soft sand

it is an arc
over or underarm

thorns tight to the bud


a place in
and through

mostly unnoticed

Copyright © Janet Sutherland, 2005